John Updike, who died this week, visited the Mercantile Library twice, once as a Niehoff lecturer and once for the Winter Author Series. For that latter visit he was invited by UC professor and (then) Mercantile trustee Jim Schiff (center), who is one of the people you call if you want to talk to someone who really knows the author and his works. Jim turned his recollections of the visit into a book you can check out.
Updike was one of the good guests. (See Buck Niehoff’s memoir of the Niehoff Lectures A Funny Thing At The Library if you want to know who the bad guests were) He was polite, friendly, cooperative, reasonably priced, and an engaging speaker. More than that you cannot ask. We took him upstairs to show him that his name was up there in copper leaf on the ceiling of the lecture hall with the likes of fellow Mercantile visitors Melville and Bellow, and if he had any problems with that, he was far too polite to let on. Really, a very nice man.
There’s a picture of him looking at the ceiling someplace in our gigantic, pre-Picasa photo collection, and if we can find it, we’ll run it.